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August 6, 2011

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Fax art revival takes center stage

SEVERAL artists have been busy touching up works of art created on fax paper as they revive an old exhibition that shows how much things have changed in just 15 years, writes Wang Jie.

In today's high-tech world, a fax sounds like a quaint, outdated technology that is almost extinct. But back in 1996, it was a popular and cheap way for people to communicate with each other, especially across vast distances.

Some artists realized the value of the medium and created a fax art exhibit. That exhibit has been revived by ShanghART Taopu with its ongoing "Let's Talk About Money - 1st International Fax Art Exhibition in Shanghai 1996" exhibition.

In 1996, Canadian curator Hank Bull teamed with Shi Yong, Ding Yi, Zhou Tiehai and other Shanghai artists to hold the "Fax Art Exhibition." Bull sent invitations to the artists from the Western Front Art Center in Vancouver.

Participants around the world were invited to use a piece of A4 fax paper to create a piece of art on the theme "Money." Artists were free to paint, sketch or use other ways to create their work. They then faxed the work to either Ding or Zhou (they were the only two artists in Shanghai with a fax machine at the time) and the pieces were displayed at Shanghai Huashan Art School Gallery.

Back then, more than 100 artists, designers and students from 17 countries and regions participated in the "Fax Art Exhibition" in 1996.

"It was such an important exhibition at that time, and we thought it would be meaningful to revive it 15 years later," says Zhou, one of the curators for this exhibition. "It is especially interesting to look back at these faxes as society has gone through a dramatic change since that time.

Zhou confesses that they originally thought they could save a lot of money by hosting such an exhibition as they wouldn't have to worry about shipping large paintings and other artwork from around the world.

The theme is money because, Zhou says, they couldn't openly discuss politics in 1996.

"It seemed like the economy was a suitable topic for us as people from all over the world would talk excitedly about money," the artist says.

He says the feedback from artists was exceptional.

"Perhaps all artists share one thing in common - they all tend to express their concepts through images, not words," Zhou says with a smile.

Reviving the exhibition has proven to be a challenge as fax paper is heat-sensitive and not very durable. He says a lot of the images have faded over time.

Zhou says they decided to take the original art faxes and fill in the faded details. Then they scanned the artwork into a computer and made printouts which are on display at ShanghART Taopu.

As the art has been generated by artists from around the world and they were free to interpret the theme in any way, the pieces vary enormously. Also, due to the limitations of fax paper, each piece is black and white.

Reviving the exhibition is interesting as it shows how humans keep striving to communicate with one another in new ways. It makes us wonder what is going to replace computers and the Internet.

Date: through August 31 (closed on Tuesdays), 10am-6pm

Address: Bldg 8, 18 Wuwei Rd

Tel: 3632-2097

How to get there: Take Metro Line 11, get off at Qilianshan Road Station, and then walk 10 minutes.


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